Charity Hikers complete the Appalachian Trail by noon

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

BYRAM — Over 1,100 people hiked from Maine to Georgia along a mock Appalachian Trail (AT) on Saturday, Oct. 13 to raise money for Byram organizations and to honor Benton MacKaye, the man who conceived, planned and implemented the blazing of the trail back in 1921. “The Appalachian Trail truly began at Hudson Guild Farm here in Byram,” said Larry Anderson, author of “Benton MacKaye, Conservationist, Planner and Creator the Appalachian Trail.” The site of Saturday’s walk began and ended at Hudson Farms on Sparta Stanhope Road. With the help of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the four mile hike was a mock version of the 2,000 mile AT, with signs indicating when walkers entered each of the 14 states that the trail runs through. Volunteers were posted at each sign, giving details and history about the trail in that particular state. “Welcome to West Virginia,” declared Maria Isherwood and Kelly Armstrong, “home of the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail and the state with the shortest stretch - only 4 miles.” The Byram Charity Hike has been held for the past seven years and enjoys growing success. This year over $42,000 was raised with proceeds being split between the township’s schools, Lakeland Emergency Squad, Byram youth sports programs and Byram Township Volunteer Fire Department. Free to walkers, the donations came from the Hudson Farm Club. Each walker received $1 for each year of age and donated that money between the organizations represented. “The addition of author Larry Anderson was huge," said organizer Marie Raffay. "His book is incredible and it was great to be able to educate people to the fact that the Appalachian Trail really and truly started here.” Anderson gave an interesting, insightful and educational talk at the end of the day with many moments that elicited gasps from the crowd as the connections with Hudson Guild Farms and the trail were discussed. “Just 90 years ago in 1921, Benton McKaye along with two other men, Charles Harris Whitaker and Clarence Stein, came to Hudson Guild Farm to launch the idea of the AT, as the trail has come to be known," said Anderson. "The idea was to develop a hiking path along the Appalachian Mountain Range, which runs between Maine and Georgia." Anderson said MacKaye created the idea, Whitaker was the editor of the Journal of the American Institute of Architects who agreed to report on it and Stein was an architect that was affiliated with the Hudson Guild. The idea caught fire and the trail was blazed by volunteers and outdoor enthusiasts. “MacKaye was able to harness the amateur volunteer spirit of thousands of people to build the trail," said Anderson. "The AT was the first of its kind and was started before many of the parks in the country were preserved or protected." Anderson said the trail became the standard for nature trails across the country. "Remember, it all began here, the site of Hudson Guild Farms,” said Anderson. Anderson’s biography of Benton MacKaye and can be found on The book delves into his educational background, including his decision to quit high school, how he got into and received a degree from Harvard, his marriage to a politically active and vocal woman during the suffrage movement, his work with the forest service and the department of labor, and of course, how he managed to create the Appalachian Trail in only 16 years.